BERLIN - No matter the sport, Signing Day has always been an important one for high school athletes and Thursday morning proved to be no exception.
Three Berlin athletes officially committed to the next step of their athletic and academic careers, as Patricia Mroczkowski, Gianni Fanelli and Kevin Dunn signed their letters of intent inside Berlin High School.
Mroczkowski signed her letter while proudly displaying a UConn hat and shirt, as the accomplished high jumper will join the Huskies’ track and field team this fall after reaching the New Balance National Championships every year since her freshman season with the Redcoats.
“It’s really exciting,” Mroczkowski said. “I knew I wanted to further my athletic career, and UConn is a place I wanted to attend for athletics and academics. It’s a huge stress relief to know that I’ll be going there.”
Mroczkowski didn’t always know where she would be going, or if she even wanted to compete in track and field. As head coach Steve Soucy addressed the crowd inside Berlin’s Media Center on Thursday, he recounted Mroczkowski’s days as a freshman, when she shrugged off the idea of competing at the next level.
“Patty once said, ‘I don’t know if I’ll be jumping next week, let alone in college.’” Soucy recalled.
After winning two class state championships in the past two years and finishing in the top-10 at the national level, Mroczkowski was finally convinced that her talents were fit for the collegiate stage.
“My junior year I realized that maybe I’m good at it and I should probably stick with it,” Mroczkowski said. “Not everyone is gifted like that and I realized I needed to take advantage of it.”
Soucy, who always saw Mroczkowski’s undeniable talent, has big visions for his senior for her days at UConn and beyond.
“I’ve been convinced over the last few years that she’s ready [for the college level],” Soucy said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s competing in the Olympics in the next few years.”
Seated next to Mroczkowski at the table of three was Dunn, signing off on his commitment to play football at the Division-I level for Sacred Heart. Dunn will play wide receiver for the Pioneers, completing a winding road leading him back to his original position that he played in youth football.
“That’s what I used to play before my sophomore year,” Dunn said. “It will be nice to go back to my original position.”
Dunn moved over to quarterback his sophomore year when the position needed to be filled, and all Dunn did was break the school passing record two years in a row, while leading the Redcoats to a state championship game in his senior season.
“Not only are you getting the honor to play at college, but you are a record-holder here at Berlin,” head coach Joe Aerosimowicz said to Dunn before he signed his letter of intent. “I don’t think that’s a record that will be broken any time soon.”
For Dunn, the experience of playing quarterback gave him a better sense of the offense, which he believes will make him an even better receiver in college.
“Being a high school quarterback, you have to study the game a lot more,” Dunn said. “I think that helped a lot, knowing the offense and how the game moves.”
Fanelli will be playing a familiar position when he gets to Assumption College this fall, as he committed to play center field for the Greyhounds after he finishes his last season at Berlin.
Fanelli, also a pitcher for Berlin head coach Leo Veleas, believes the outfield is where he belongs and will set him up for success when he arrives in Worcester, Massachusetts.
“I feel like that’s my better position and I can excel the best at it,” Fanelli said. “It’s exciting to continue the next chapter of my baseball career.”
Veleas praised Fanelli’s work ethic at the signing ceremony, even admitting that sometimes he needs to tell his senior to pump the brakes a bit. After all, he’s got a collegiate future to think about.
“His motor is always running,” Veleas said. “He plays at 100 miles per hour. Sometimes we have to pull in the reins on him a bit.”
Fanelli will remain full speed ahead through spring, as he aims to bring a state championship to Berlin before moving on to Assumption.
“I’m going to miss playing here,” Fanelli said. “But I can’t wait for the bright things to come.”